Many people believe Jesus came to earth but are less sure about why

(Photo: Unsplash/Dan Kiefer)

A majority of Americans believe Jesus was born in Bethlehem and that he is the Son of God, according to a new survey from an evangelical research firm.

Nashville-based Lifeway Research conducted the "Bethlehem and Beyond: Who is Jesus?" survey of 1,005 Americans in September 2021. The respondents were quota-balanced to reflect the population.

Asked if they believed Jesus was born in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, more than two thirds (72 per cent) of respondents said they did.

Asked if they believed Jesus is the Son of God the Father, four fifths (80 per cent) said yes.

But fewer than half (41 per cent) said they believed the Son of God existed before Jesus was born at Bethlehem.

Lifeway's director Scott McConnell commented: "Most Americans consider Jesus' birth a historical fact. It can be easy to only evaluate Jesus like you would any other historical figure - thinking about when He lived and what He did.

"However, the Bible also describes Jesus in a way that one must evaluate who you believe He was. Most Americans believe His origin was from God the Father, but half as many believe He existed before His birth."

Respondents were also tested for their biblical knowledge on why Jesus came to earth. They were presented with seven mission statements and asked whether these were recorded in the Bible. Four of them are in the Bible and three are contradicted by it.

The results revealed "Christmas confusion", according to Lifeway.

Just over half (51 per cent) said the recorded statement that Jesus came to "give his life for many" (Mark 10:45) was in the Bible.

Less than a third (31 per cent) said the statement that Jesus came to "give abundant life" (John 10:10) was in the Bible. The same percentage said the statement that he came to "testify to the truth" (John 18:37) was biblical.

Only nine per cent said Jesus' mission statement as recorded in Matthew 10:34 that he came to bring division, not peace to the earth, was in the Bible.

But fewer than 10 per cent of respondents said the unrecorded statements that Jesus came to "be served", to "condemn sinners" and to "abolish the Old Testament Law and Prophets" were in the Bible.

Nearly a fifth (17 per cent) were uncertain that any of the statements were biblical.

Scott McConnell said: "Despite widespread belief that Jesus really came to earth as a baby, there is far less familiarity with why Jesus said He came.

"However, the majority of Americans believe Jesus came to give His life for many, which is reflected in the angel's words to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, 'She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins'."